Wasserman: Attacking the messenger is not a solution

Submitted by Svetlana Wasserman, Greenwich

I was disappointed to read Michael Spilo’s recent letter to the editor, “Alarmist Bells are Going Off” April 23, 2021.

Rather than addressing Greenwich’s dire investment needs, he attacks the messenger. His ad hominem attacks on Joanna Swomley, calling her a member of a “squad” (sound familiar?), “in poor taste,” “low-brow discourse,” and in an earlier editorial, “shrill,” and “appeal(ing) to emotion,” reveal more about his views than hers.

Attacking women for being emotional, shrill or hysterical is the tired sexist trope used to dismiss women’s arguments. Rather than addressing the concerns that critics like Ms. Swomley raise, he accuses her of being “divisive.”

Yet I don’t hear the accusations of “divisiveness” when the Greenwich GOP state delegation attacks every initiative from the State legislature ranging from policing reform, zoning changes, and action to combat climate change. “Divisive” is the charge made by defenders of the status quo who will brook no dissent.

Michael Spilo’s selective recitation of capital projects funded over the last 14 years might have more credibility IF he had been able to respond to the merits of Swomley’s criticism, rather than attacking the critic. Namely she pointed out that:

1) Our schools are not ADA compliant (40 years after the ADA was passed). Are they? No.
2) Our school buildings are crumbling. Did a North Mianus School fourth grade ceiling just fall in? YES. Did Mr. Spilo vote against the emergency appropriation to repair NMS at the last Public Works committee session? YES he did. 
3) A large number of our fields are still contaminated despite local government being aware of this problem for years: Are the fields still contaminated? YES they are.
 4) There is a serious deficiency in fire coverage in the Northwest part of Town. Did the First Selectman and the BET provide any funds in next year’s budget to even begin to remedy the problem.?  No they did not.
Since he does not and cannot refute any of those facts, Mr. Spilo asserts instead that the Town has spent hundreds of million dollars on a variety of projects. Taking that as true, if we still have ceilings falling in on schools, schools that are not compliant with federal law, contaminated fields and an absence of fire coverage, what does that tell you about our Town elected officials and how money is being spent?

Mr. Spilo obviously does not like the criticism of him, Fred Camillo or his Republican colleagues. I get it. The Republicans have controlled Greenwich for so long without criticism or questions that being questioned or challenged is an uncomfortable and strange experience.

But, Mr. Spilo, criticism is not “low brow discourse” nor is it “vile”. To the contrary, it is healthy and important for any democracy. And, when faced with criticism, if you cannot refute the claims it is generally wise to consider and act upon the criticism, even if you don’t like the source.